“Silicon Valley” became an instant success, one of television’s most well crafted and hilarious shows, following its premiere in 2014. Now, in its fourth season, “Silicon Valley” continues to thrive by satirizing the bizarre, though insanely lucrative, tech companies and their eccentric culture. Josh Brener (“The Internship”) stars as the show’s loveable goof, Nelson Bighetti, better known as “Big Head” among his friends and coworkers. In an interview with the Daily, Brener talked about real life Silicon Valley experiences, his acting background and the show’s talented cast and writers.
Brener, with no background in tech, has learned a lot about the field through playing Big Head and previous roles, like Lyle in “The Internship.”
“I am not really a tech person at all. I’m kind of a dummy when it comes to that stuff, but by virtue of looking like someone who might know about tech, I have gotten exposed to it a fair bit through acting,” said Brener, who has met some of the most successful names in Silicon Valley, including Craigslist founder Craig Newmark. “You sort of expect people who are like Craig, or other names you would recognize, to have big CEO personalities and to be very polished. They are not that. They’re odd people in odd clothing choices, and they’re amazing –– really nice and wonderful people.”
“Getting to meet luminaries that are the people, as much as we make fun of them, changing the world … is a really unique thing. With our show, a lot of it is pretty accurate, and I think it's what the real people in Silicon Valley appreciate, and enjoy watching themselves. We’re all egomaniacs: We just want to watch ourselves,” Brener stated.
After transitioning from the laughingstock of the show’s fictitious tech startup, Pied Piper, to a multimillionaire working for the rival company, Big Head has fallen back to his initial lousy status. When asked about this drastic change, Brener explained how his character is able to remain so indifferent.
“One of my favorite things about the character is that he doesn’t really seem to care one way or another. His change in dynamics between being a multi-millionaire to some guy on a couch doesn’t change him. He’s just a guy looking to snack well and avoid conflict or any real responsibility,” Brener said.
Beyond Brener’s talent and knack at playing nerds like Big Head, he claims luck played a huge role in his success. He found himself at the right place at the right time a few years after his move to Los Angeles.
“I was in a weird theater group at Harvard called Hasty Pudding where guys dress up in tights and high heels… it’s really silly and crazy. After I was [in Los Angeles] for a few years, I ended up auditioning for a role on the show ‘House of Lies,’” Brener stated. This role, coincidentally, was “to play a recent Harvard graduate talking about the Hasty Pudding. And, it just blew my mind. I went it wearing my goofy Harvard tie, made up stuff about the Hasty Pudding and ended up getting the role.”
“Silicon Valley” features an ensemble of hilarious and gifted actors. Brener expressed gratitude for working with such an incredible cast and the opportunities the show has provided him in future projects.
“Going to work with some of the funniest people on the planet is equal parts inspiring, humbling and intimidating,” Brener said. “I think we’re all trying to do as much with the good fortune that ‘Silicon Valley’ has given us. My wife and I are writing partners, so we’re busily trying to get projects started on that front as well. It’s a grind out here, so you take whatever advantages you get, and ‘Silicon Valley’ has had more happen to us than we’ve had happen to it. We’re really lucky.”
Brener, in addition to his fellow actors, acknowledges the high quality of writing on the show, particularly in the characterization of Big Head. “I have to give most of the credit for Big Head to the writers — Mike Judge, Alec Berg and their staff — because when we started the show, it wasn’t really clear what the character was,” Brener said. Interestingly enough, he auditioned for the part of Erlich Bachman, played by TJ Miller (“Deadpool”).
“I never auditioned for Big Head; I didn't know what it was or where it was going. So when we shot the pilot, I didn’t know a ton, but then when they started writing season two, they honed this character. I think they nailed it and I’ve been incredibly lucky to get to be the wide eyed, confused dumb-dumb,” he stated.
Brener explained the future of the show and the philosophical change in the plot, now becoming more focused on bigger ideas.
“I’m excited about [the shift]. We’re going to start looking at big picture, big ideas, which is what Silicon Valley is all about: changing the world and revolutionizing the way people live their day to day life.”